Moving from thinking to action, however, may be daunting. As anyone who has gone through a box of old letters or photos can attest, it’s easy to get lost in the process and give up, shoving the box back wherever you found it and feeling defeated. Now try to imagine what it will be like to go through your whole house. While some people relish the idea of purging their possessions, others find it upsetting.
Fear not, with a little planning along the way, this is not an insurmountable task. It can be done, and you may even have fun. Most people, once on the other side of a major downsizing, say they wish they’d done it years before.
Here, then, are six tips to make it as painless an experience as possible.
Start early. You’re about to go through a lifetime of belongings and memories- children’s drawings, your grandmother’s china, photo albums, kitchen appliances, reams and reams of paperwork- so you will need to take the time to sort through it all. Give yourself three to four months so you don’t end up feeling rushed and upset. Talk to your spouse or partner about their ideas, create goals and a timeline, and write it down. Then stick to it.
2. Determine Categories
Many people find it easier to go through their house with three categories in mind: “must keep,” “sell” and “donate or offer to family or friends.” Do not create a “maybe” category, as some suggest, as that pile will quickly become enormous. Be ruthless when you’re assessing each item and remember to check in regularly with your goals to keep you motivated and on task. Also, do some thinking ahead of time about where to donate or give away treasured items you’ve decided to part with, as it can make letting go much easier.
(Extra hint: Talk with family and friends about special items and come up with a plan to resolve any conflicts that may arise over family heirlooms.)
3. Be Systematic
It’s best to start in areas you use the least and work up to areas where you store a lot of sentimental items or paperwork. Tackle the basement, spare room or laundry area first, so you don’t become bogged down. If you’re honest with yourself, you already know which area will be the hardest for you. With that in mind, look at your plan and determine where you may need the most time and make revisions, if necessary.
4. Don’t Guess – Measure!
If you’re moving to a smaller space, measure it or take a close look at the floor plan to help you figure out exactly what furniture you can keep and what has to go. Good measurements can help you get a better sense of storage space as well, which will help when it comes time to purge your closets. Either draw your floor plan with furniture sketched in, or try one of the many apps that draw a digital floor plan for you, and assist you in moving the furniture around. Much easier!
5. Think Multipurpose
Make sure whatever you keep or buy has more than one function, such as an ottoman or coffee table that offers storage space, or a sofa that can easily turn into a guest bed (preferably one with storage for the extra blankets and pillows). Single purpose items are a thing of the past! In the same vein, instead of thinking you won’t have room for a home office, look for a corner or other small space that could be turned into a mini-office or craft area.
6. Get Help
A trusted friend can help make the process easier by providing an objective opinion and helping you stay focused. If that doesn’t work out or you get stuck, consider hiring a professional organizer to help get you back on track and keep your eye on the prize!
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